Shane Bouchard, left, and Ben Chin are preparing for a runoff election on Dec. 12. (Sun Journal file photo)
LEWISTON — Ben Chin and Shane Bouchard are keeping their campaign signs up and preparing for anything.
A day after the two mayoral candidates received just enough votes to enter a runoff election on Dec. 12, they remain in campaign mode, and are looking for ways to rally more support.
Chin came out on top Tuesday in the field of five candidates looking to replace Mayor Robert Macdonald, receiving 42 percent of the vote. Bouchard followed with 29 percent, besting Mark Cayer who had 24 percent.
In Lewiston, a runoff between the top two candidates occurs if no candidate receives a clear majority of votes — 50 percent plus at least one vote.
While Chin and Bouchard didn’t target each other much during the campaign, they’re both expecting the tone of the race to sharpen dramatically but said they don’t necessarily plan to change their campaign strategies.
After results came in Tuesday night, Bouchard said point-blank: “It’s time to go after Ben Chin.”
Chin said he’s planning to “build on the success” his campaign has seen so far in talking about the “real issues” facing Lewiston, such as the opioid crisis, making sure slumlords play by the same rules as everyone else, and immigrant integration.
“The reason we haven’t been able to move the needle on any of that stuff is because of the same ‘old guard’ way of doing things,” he said during an interview Wednesday.
He said candidly that his strategy of staying focused on the issues may not work, and that the campaign could turn into personal attacks. But, he said, he doesn’t know how to run a campaign that way.
“At the end of the day, Lewiston will have a choice between doing the same old stuff versus trying to take a new course,” he said. “I think we’re going to vote for a new course.”
Bouchard said he’s hoping that both campaigns continue to focus on the issues, but at the same time he said he expects to make “some clear contrasts” between himself and Chin.
“Now in a runoff, you know your opponent, you know what they’re about,” he said. “It should be about issues, and it should be about record.”
Chin finds himself in familiar territory. The results Tuesday forcing a runoff mirror the events of the high-profile and contentious election in 2015.
That year, Chin won a five-person race as well, with 44 percent of the tally. But because he fell short of the 50 percent mark, he was forced into a runoff with second-place incumbent Macdonald, who trailed him with 37 percent of the total. Chin lost the runoff to Macdonald, 53 percent of the vote to 47.
On Wednesday, Chin said he’s optimistic that he’ll gain additional votes from people who supported Cayer, who is considered an independent. He said he’s talked to many of Cayer’s supporters throughout the campaign, and he believes they’re looking for a “positive, civil, and rational” form of politics.
“I feel like we have a really good lane to make the case that that’s what we stand for,” he said.
Prior to the election, Macdonald had come out in support of Cayer, showing that Cayer also had traditional Republican supporters. Cayer said Wednesday that it was still too soon for him to think about making any endorsement.
The remaining candidates, Ron Potvin and Charles Soule, received 4 percent and 1.5 percent of the vote, respectively, Tuesday.
Bouchard said Wednesday that he’s certain he’ll gain some Cayer supporters in the runoff vote. He said it will be a matter of reconnecting with voters, and “identifying the Cayer voters and going after them.”
After results came in Tuesday night, Bouchard said he was expecting a more “spirited” runoff campaign.
Bouchard seemed to take a pre-election strategy of focusing on besting Cayer and making it to the runoff with Chin. The question now is whether Bouchard can win over supporters of a candidate he often criticized leading up to Nov. 7.
He said he’s hoping the community takes a similar turn as in 2015.
“In the end, there were still more votes that said ‘not Chin’ than (there were for) Chin,” he said, referring to Macdonald’s victory.
Heidi Sawyer, the creator and a moderator for Lewiston Rocks, a community Facebook page that closely follows local politics, said she was “very” surprised by the results of the mayor’s race Tuesday.
Asked where Cayer supporters might turn in the runoff election, she said, “I think both campaigns will attempt to stake claim to Cayer supporters, but I feel most Cayer supporters are pretty independent thinkers and many will be torn on this decision.”
Sawyer said she may put together a forum on the mayor’s race leading up to the special election.
Another challenge facing both candidates is a quick turnaround special election with a consolidated polling location, factors that could hurt turnout numbers. Mid-December is also nearing the busy holiday season.
Chin said there’s still confusion among some people about the process in Lewiston. He received messages Wednesday congratulating him on the win.
If the vote were held elsewhere based on popular vote, Chin would have now won the mayor’s race twice.
He said it will be important to push early voting, and to make sure people know they must cast their votes again.
“It becomes a much more challenging election,” he said.
City Clerk Kathy Montejo said absentee ballots will be available starting Thursday, Nov. 9.
Chin said he’s partly happy the campaign is continuing.
“You do get a chance to get more issues out there,” he said.
The Lewiston mayoral runoff election:
• Tuesday, Dec. 12, polls will be open 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
• All voting will take place at Longley Elementary School, 145 Birch St.
• Absentee ballots will be available starting Thursday, Nov. 9.
• Deadline to order absentee ballots is Thursday, Dec. 7, by 4 p.m.
• Voters wishing to cast an absentee ballot may do so in person at the City Clerk’s office, second floor of City Hall.
• If you would like to have an absentee ballot mailed to your home, call the City Clerk’s office at 513-3124.